If you're feeling you've let yourself down in the past because you haven't kept up with your resolutions, don't fret. Here are five ways to make this the most productive year ever – without a single New Year's resolution. Instead, I'll help you create a framework for your year so that you can maximize your potential.
1. Theme your months. One clever way to ensure that you can start the year you want any time you want is to apply a theme to each month of the year. By aligning that month with your specific project or goal, and making it the focal point, you are more likely to put in the time and effort necessary to make significant progress .
Theming your months will take you a lot further than trying to keep a single resolution. It will help you broaden your horizons and grow in multiple areas of your life. That kind of growth and evolution is what makes a year truly productive.
2. Capture thoughts relentlessly. You can't keep everything in your head and still be productive; trying to do so is futile. Your mind is meant to be a factory…not a warehouse.
You should spend at least two weeks capturing and tracking your daily tasks on an hourly basis, or as often as you can through each day. It's a challenging habit to adopt, but once you've spent some time doing it, you can then begin the selective process of curating those tasks.
3. Curate your to-do list. Curating your to do-list involves reprioritizing, reordering, expanding, and eliminating tasks so that you spend your time getting the right things done instead of simply being busy just for the sake of appearing to be productive.
I like to categorize my tasks in three columns: need to do, ought to do, and want to do. Ultimately you want as little in that middle column as possible so that you can get to the things you really want to do. So be honest and either move those "ought to" items to the first or third column or ditch them altogether. When you do that you give yourself the luxury of being able to accomplish more of the things that matter to you.
4. Embrace mode-based work. Most of us work almost exclusively by project or by simply going down a checklist. That's not going to maximize your productivity over the long haul. Instead, attach the mode you need to be in for every task on your to-do list. That way you can take care of all of your phone calls across your to-do list when you're in "Phone Mode" or be able to view all of the tasks that will take five minutes or less by viewing only things tagged with "Five-Minute Mode."
Nearly every digital task-management application allows for this kind of tagging – and you can even do this on paper by writing down the mode you need to be in next for every task on your list. If you want to achieve a state of flow – defined as "the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity" then you'll want to spend more time in mode-based work .
5. Keep a journal. Why should you keep a journal? Well, other than giving you a place to look back and reflect and chronicle the events in your life, there's one essential benefit to your productivity: Journalling is like a brain dump at the end of the day.
The beginning of a new year is a time to recharge, reflect and refocus. Journalling can really help you with that and, in turn, help you plot out a more productive year in the process.
If you put just one of these ways to practice in the new year, your productivity will increase. The more you adopt, the better your year will be. Make all five part of your personal productivity process starting today and you are bound to have your most productive year ever.
Mike Vardy is a productivity strategist and the founder of Productivityist, a company that offers services and products to help people be more efficient.